The Bald Faced Stag, East Finchley
We're not spoilt for pubs in Golders Green, funnily enough, so one Sunday recently we headed round the North Circular towards Finchley in search of entertainment. Ostensibly we'd gone to investigate talk of a little farmers market - The North Finchley Feast - but little was very much the operative word, and once we'd scoffed some mini Greek pastries there wasn't much else and we ended up wandering round to The Bald Faced Stag in East Finchley.
I've driven past it a few times and made a mental note to visit as it's quite nice looking from the outside and there's a fair amount of positive feedback on the food to be found online. For a Sunday lunchtime we were surprised to find it relatively quiet, even with the rugby etc going on. It's got a rustic, warm interior typical of foodie pubs, the standard stack of board games and knick knacks, so we found ourselves a quiet table with space for potential tantrums (Leo's, not mine, on this occasion) before ordering at the bar.
The menu was right up my street with all sorts of interesting ingredients (ceps, ox tongue, smoked goats cheese, Jerusalem artichoke - I could go on) marking it as clearly seasonal and fast-changing. A good sign. I really couldn't choose, so I didn't and went for two starters instead of a main. Leo had eaten his fill at the market, so we occupied him with some of their really really good bread and butter - though there is a decent children's menu. I couldn't put my finger on what the butter was; perhaps something like a smoked nut? Answers on a postcard.
The first of my dishes was Chicken and tarragon terrine, rye bread and truffle mayo (£6.50). It was completely delicious and far exceeded my expectations. The terrine was succulent, juicy and well seasoned with a true chickeny-chicken flavour; you know what I mean. Of course tarragon is a natural bedfellow of chicken, but it definitely made the whole dish shine a little brighter and my love of truffle mayo will never die, so was much welcomed. A brilliant and generous plate for the quality and price.
Rich was tucking into a burger (£12.50) by this point - so far so predictable - but it proved to be a worthy selection of fat juicy burger in a nice bun though the seasoning and accompaniments were a tad off. The chips (triple fried natch) were so good that we both remarked on it. I ate more than my fair share and would do so again in a heartbeat. Dipped in the truffle mayo of my starter you could practically pretend you were in Villandry munching on their Aspen Fries.
My photography skills and brain remain lacking, so here is a pic of the great fries that means you see precisely nil of the money shot of the burger. You'll have to go and have a look for yourselves if you care.
Buoyed by our successes so far I couldn't wait to tuck into my greedy second starter of Cornish mussels, hollandaise, cep crumble and more rye bread (£6.50):
Wow it was rich. It was just way way too much for me - and most people, I suspect. I also found that the creamy hollandaise jarred with the mussels, and once combines with the musty earthiness of the cep crumble (and the jus below deck) it was actually impossible to eat. Very sad.
Then, I was glad I'd scoffed all the chips.
It's also worth noting that it took the best part of an hour for our food to arrive, which when the pub was so quiet was kind of baffling.
We'll go back but we won't rush.